Before the Affordable Care Act, my family was struggling. Not in the worst sense — my husband and I both had professional jobs, and there were and still are people who are worse off. But we were on the low end of the pay scale, and we struggled to pay unexpected bills, such as the cost for the birth of our first son, about $5,000 for a non-complicated delivery, after insurance. We constantly worried about our lack of emergency savings and what would happen if we encountered a tragedy.
I knew from my mother’s cancer that illness can strike anyone, as can accidents, and even with cushy state-employee insurance, her out-of-pocket expenses were $200,000 for just a few months of care at the end of her life. That’s an amount that would devastate most families. (The Affordable Care Act would have prevented this high number – there is currently a mandatory maximum-out-of-pocket annual cap in place for those on ACA plans AND those on employer-provided insurance plans to prevent financial destitution.)
At about the same time Obamacare, aka, the Affordable Care Act, came live, we took a hard look at our finances and took a chance. We left our salaried jobs and moved to North Carolina, where my husband began working as a contract employee, and we started a small business.
We never would have done this without the ACA. First of all, who knows if we would have qualified for individual insurance, considering that many pre-existing conditions barred most people from being able to purchase this insurance. Second, the plans available to individuals before the ACA were abysmal. Most didn’t cover maternity care, and many had such high deductibles that they weren’t worth it.
We do not qualify for subsidies, so our monthly premium is nearly $1,400. This is too high. North Carolina representatives could alleviate this for us by expanding Medicaid. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion in Michigan significantly lowered monthly premiums overall. The study also found that the Medicaid expansion was revenue-neutral for the state, even after the state’s required payments kicked in. However, if North Carolina leaders expanded Medicaid, they would be helping the system work better. That’s not what they want.
Our U.S. Congress could help too, by creating a public option plan that would bring competition to states like North Carolina, where we have only one insurer offering ACA plans. This, too, would save Americans like me money. And it would help the system work better. But again, that’s not what our leaders want.
It’s hard to believe that our leaders are that heartless that they would take away a law that helps families like mine, or even more importantly, helps people stay alive because the majority of people on the plan are not as privileged as my family. Their biggest fear if they faced a severe illness or accident would be death, not bankruptcy or the loss of a retirement nest egg, although the latter two options should not occur either.
The thing is, the GOP want to destroy ACA for many reasons, but the biggest I believe is the tax on income above $250,000 that pays for the subsidies that the majority of people on ACA plans receive. Billionaires like President Trump, and millionaires like most of our Congressional leaders, are faced a tax hike to pay for subsidies so that middle class and lower class families can have health care. They stand to benefit enormously from an ACA repeal.
The majority of average Americans against Obamacare don’t understand that their tax dollars are not paying anything for others to obtain health insurance, and in fact, their medical costs might go down if the GOP would work with Democrats on fixing the system that exists rather than tearing it down.
Because even with such an expensive premium, my family is still better off with the ACA. We have insurance similar to what we would have on an employer-provided plan (albeit at a much higher cost), and we have the freedom to pursue our dreams of being self-employed without the fear of being one illness or tragedy away from bankruptcy. Because before the ACA, a major illness or accident meant losing one’s home, retirement or college savings — and that happened to the “privileged.” For those not so lucky, they faced losing their lives.